A CUTE, SLEEPY
VILLAGE IN FRANCE
Well, here is a sleepy hollow in France with a very interesting history.
Conques was never supposed to be found. Or at least, not easily. The sleepy village had been presiding over the French Midi-Pyrénées mountains since the 7th century, when a monk named Dadon decided it would make the perfect place for sacred hermitage. Not only was the valley close to a legendary Roman spring, but it was nearly impossible to reach without a lot of grit and motivation, making it the perfect resting place for one of Europe’s grandest treasures.
But we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s take a stroll through Conques (pronounced “conk”) which is, thanks to the magic of Google Maps and four-wheel drive, a bit easier to get to these days. There are about 255 habitants in the medieval village, and a good number of them are goats, cats, and cattle. The souvenir of choice is usually a bottle of the area’s Marcillac wine, or a golden cow bell.
The name “Conques” comes from the ye-olde French word for “shell,” conche, and is also a telltale sign of its history as an important site for religious pilgrims on their way to the coastal town of Santiago de Compostela, the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. Hence, the many seashells nailed upon the doors of locals. For about a thousand years, they’ve served as a secret welcome sign for the pilgrims.
The main attraction at Conques? The relics of a martyred 12-year-old girl named “Faith” (St. Foy in French) from Aquitaine, which date back to the 4th century. According to legend, she was killed by the Roman Emperor Diocletion because she just couldn’t stop performing miracles, so he essentially BBQ’d her on a griddle. He also cut off her head for good measure.
Her remains proved to be just as powerful in their miracle making, so much so that the monks from Conques actually stole them from Faith’s hometown of Agen to bring a little bit more life into the village when its isolation started to become a serious economic detriment. Pilgrimage, they realised could also become a form of tourism. And to this day, they’re tucked away in the Abbey Church of Saint Foy.
Clancy's comment: Amazing story, but what a cute village, eh?